Thursday, July 27, 2006

Hot & Humid

I haven't checked with the weather people, but my inner humidity gauge tells me this week tops the charts. I walked back to work after lunch one day this week and my shirt became completely soaked with sweat. I came home yesterday and watered plants, weeded, and bundled some branches I had chopped down over the weekend. By the time I went inside, I looked like I had been walking in a rainstorm, except my cheeks were as red as beets.

Tonight after work, I dragged to the curb the many bundles of branches I have ready for the yard waste truck. I got smart this time, however. I put on my bathing suit before I started this task. When I finished, soaked through, I jumped into the cold water of the pool. I dunked my head repeatedly.

I love to come home from work in the summer—where I have to keep a fan blowing on me to stay cool—do some chores and then JUMP into the cold pool water. We have an ancient concrete pool. It has no fancy heating system - so even in the hottest months, the water stays cold.

Our black Lab puppy, Banjo, goes nuts over water. If I drag a hose out to water plants, he has to jump in it and press his face against the powerful stream of water. Every time he goes out the door in summer, he runs to the pool and begs to be let in.

So, when I come home from work, having left poor Banjo alone all afternoon, I can't just jump in and leave him to whine outside the fence. Of course I let him in. And of course he has to be by my side every minute, with his flailing sharp claws.

This evening, the humidity and heat want to converge into a thunderstorm. In the distance, I hear thunder and overhead I see grey clouds. But to the west, I find a glorious sunset emerging. With all these conflicting impulses, a wonderful orange light has spread across the lawn and reflected off the yellow brown-eyed susans outside my window.

When you think about, Illinois, with all its glorious weather changes, is an awesome place to live.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Where's the flood?

I remember in junior high if a person wore pants that didn't drag the pavement, they would inevitably be asked "Where's the flood, man?"

Several years ago, I used to always wear dresses, skirt, hose, and nice shoes to work.

Until that fateful May afternoon when our basement cubicles flooded. After spending an hour picking up computer towers off the floor, unplugging equipment, and emptying bottom drawers, I realized that my skirt and shoes were soaked through with flood water, some of which had come up through the bathroom stools.

When I got home, I carried the skirt and the shoes to the garbage and slipped into pajamas.

Since then, I figure this could happen again at any time, so be prepared. Computer towers must sit on desktops and beautiful long skirts are not appropriate basement attire.

It happened again late this afternoon. Central Illinois received a torrential rainstorm. Water poured in through the doors, walls, and the toilets of our basement. The A/C shut down. We sweated as we cleared the floor of electrical cords and papers.

So, when you see me in my straight-legged, short pants and you ask me "where's the flood." I'll say, "It's coming any time, man, and I want to be ready."

Friday, July 14, 2006

Kiss of the Overworked Woman

A recent study suggests that working long hours takes a harder toll on women than on men.

As a woman who has worked a fair share of overtime, I can say with conviction that doing this does nothing for one's physical or mental well being. It does, however, get the work done so you can keep your head above water and not become overwhelmed by piles of projects and dayminders of missed deadlines.

The British study, performed by Daryl O'Connor, PhD, a senior lecturer in health psychology at England's University of Leeds, and colleagues, found that several negative health patterns stood out for women who worked long hours:

More high-fat and high-sugar snacks
More caffeine consumption
More smoking
Less exercise

For me, I can only say, check, check, n/a, and check.

I don't smoke, but I do consume caffeine and in greater amounts when I am at work as opposed to when I am at home. Likewise, when I am in my cubicle facing the computer, I am much more likely to stuff chocolate candy into my face than when I am not so confined.

Case in point: I like the smooth chocolate used to make Hershey's Kisses, so if I buy candy for home or the office, I prefer to select these confections. So, I buy a nice assortment of pastel Easter kisses and put them in a pretty candy dish at home. My nephews come and eat some. I sample them, but, with no children in the house, the dish serves more for decoration than consumption. I buy a bag of these sweets for my drawer at work, however, and they don't stand a chance. I am trying to design a cover - or write a pithy paragraph and I am unwrapping those kisses and shoving them in my mouth a "who laid the rail."

I can't explain it except when I am confined to my cubicle and by a deadline I don't have many outlets for nervous energy. At home, I could go outside and pull weeds or brush the dogs. In cubicle, I just eat candy.

Monday, July 10, 2006

idle conversation

Stopping to chat with coworkers can prove rewarding.

Today I ran into Cara in the hallway. She noticed that I had some sun on my face so asked about my weekend. I shared my enthusiasm about the new plants I put in - a hydrangea and phlox. I had fun tilling the spot for them, putting down hardwood mulch that smells wonderfully like a horse stable, and keeping the young plants watered.

She held out her hands, which were stained reddish-purple. She shared vivid images of making mulberry jelly. This endeavor made me think back to the July afternoons when I helped my mom make grape or berry jams and jellies in a steamy kitchen. We never attempted mulberry, although we had a large tree in the alley behind our house. I think the proximity of our neighbor's chicken coop - and the flies it attracted - discouraged us. Cara told of reaching way up into the branches of her very tall trees to select the fruit. Her hands became stained by squeezing the berries through a bag to separate the pulp from the many seeds.

Another time I was glad I stopped in the office down the hall to say hello. Another coworker had made a rhubarb crisp and when I stopped in late in the afternoon a one-inch square piece remained of the huge pan. "Oh please eat it," everyone begged. "We are stuffed and want to clean the pan." I was thinking to myself rhubarb - uh . . . . But I politely put the treat on a plate and dug in. It was wonderful! All those years my mother had made rhubarb pie and I never would even taste it. With this crisp, I couldn't believe how much sugar seemed to have been added and the rhubarbd was still extremely tart. An interesting mix of flavors!

No matter how busy you may be, life is too short not to take a few minutes from your workday and find out what is going on with those you share cubicle space with.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

take a walk

Whether, like me, you work in a university or strive in the private sector, we all encounter people who frustrate us.

In all my dealings with coworkers, I try to be helpful, pleasant, and cooperative. I feel that we all should be working towards the same goal. To make Bradley University the best institution of higher learning that it possibly can be.

Sometimes, however, my thoughts about how to achieve that goal clash with the thoughts of coworkers.

This saddens me. At these times I usually have to take a walk around campus.

I look at the historic buildings, the enthusiastic, diverse student body, the beautiful gardens, and I gain perspective. I let the larger picture of the university subsume the petty differences.

Then, I often walk beyond campus over to the shopping center and indulge in a Starbuck's beverage.

A nice latte can definitely calm the mind and allow you to overcome the frustration and get back to work.